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Downtown Chardon, OH.

Downtown Chardon, OH.

Our house was built in 1929. The wood floors creak. The staircase to my office is deadly in heels, and I tell people there’s a friendly banshee in the basement. In the backyard, a child once requested a swing be hung from a tree; a parent once acquiesced. There’s even a tree with dark purple leaves outside that I can climb barefoot all the way to the top.

Saturday night, I heard a skunk talking to himself on the sidewalk; last nigh, I heard cats having sex in the neighbor’s yard—neighbors who, without knowing my face or name, brought beer over to welcome us to town. Today, the air is wet and smells of rain. We sleep with the windows open under a comforter knit by Grandma Dobie.

Welcome to Chardon, Ohio.

After a four-day trek from Phoenix that felt akin to crossing the deserts of hell, Jake and I arrived in Ohio tired, near hysterical, with two dogs who looked ready to commit parricide. It took two days to unpack, because our twin U-Hauls ended up being the travel equivalent of Mary Poppins’ bag: endless and containing mysterious items we don’t remember packing or, frankly, ever seeing in our lives.

staircaseOnce settled, we realized we lived on a little street with pretty, historic homes, much older than ours. Chardon’s downtown square is within walking distance, cheerful in its quiet quaintness of coffee houses, restaurants, and antique shops.

Approximately 5,000 people call Chardon home. There’s a Fall Fest where people get together to walk around and look at red, orange, and yellow trees and carve pumpkins. There’s a December lighting ceremony that turns the downtown square into a snowy, twinkle-filled wonderland. The Geauga County Maple Fest is the big deal in April, because yes, in Chardon, people make their own maple syrup, caught by tying metal buckets to the sides of Maple trees in winter.

There’s an apple orchard nearby. There’s a restaurant downtown called Square Bistro, whose chef was once a chef in the Biltmore area of Phoenix. (Small world.) A local cottage serves afternoon tea to passers-by. There is a known “sledding hill” where everyone goes every snow day. Speaking of snow, during WinterFest, a horse-drawn carriage circles the Chardon Square while artists carve ice sculptures.

One local lady said, “I love living here. I love not having to lock my car door.” When I was at the grocery yesterday, the deli lady was busy and apologetic, and a middle-aged lady told her, “Take as long as you need,” and stood there, smiling.

living roomWhen Raylan (our rambunctious pup) accidentally ate rat poison on Saturday, I ran into my front yard and shouted to see if anyone had hydrogen peroxide to make him hurl. A neighbor rushed to his rescue from across the street.

Have I moved to some strange, perfect place where aliens are taking over the population, or did I just forget what it’s like living in the rural Midwest? More research required.

At the moment, it’s still hard to believe we’re really here. Jake started his new job yesterday. Our friend, Heather, brought over a basket of “Welcome to Chardon” goodies, including local honey, local maple syrup, local pie … you get the idea.

I have Internet, so I suppose that means we really do live here, surrounded by green trees and a pink rosebush next to the front porch.

If I could look at a map, I know there would be a red X with the words “YOU ARE HERE,” but this peaceful, beautiful place is almost too good to be true—not to mention my beloved family is only two hours away, which I never in my wildest dreams thought would happen again.

It’s like the Twilight Zone, this stormy day, scented by wet leaves and moss, as I sit and write in the creaky, old house I’ve always wanted and never quite knew I wanted. It’s quiet. The dogs snore nearby and cuddle close at night.

Welcome to Chardon.

The town, the trees, the people shout the words until Heaven responds and gives me rain.

I climb the purple one.

Our backyard of trees. I climb the purple one.

chicken-soupAs many of you know, a big part of my life in Arizona was prison ministry, but I wasn’t peddling religion; I brought books behind bars. For three years, I was honored to be a Gina’s Team book club volunteer at Perryville Prison. I wrote about the experience sparingly, but thanks to writer friend Beth Cato, I eventually sent something about Perryville to Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Miraculously, it was accepted, which was amazing to me, since my short fiction usually revolves around sex, violence, or romantic, gay cannibals.

Tomorrow, Chicken Soup releases its most recent collection, Volunteering & Giving Back, in which my essay, “Hope in Orange,” is among many featured pieces. I suggest you buy the edition, not only for my work, but for the inspirational stories of so many others doing good out there in the dark, scary world.

For your reading pleasure, you’ll find an excerpt below. Read it and head to Amazon and order your copy of Volunteering & Giving Back. Then, do one better: find some way to get involved in your community. Find a way to make a difference. It’s worth it, and if you’re doing it right, you’ll soon realize the people you help are actually helping you. This essay is wholeheartedly dedicated to the women in orange of Perryville Prison.

“Hope in Orange”

by Sara Dobie Bauer

(Featured in its entirety in Chicken Soup for the Soul.)

Perryville Prison is located on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona. Surrounded by desolation—dried desert and mountains of dirt—the prison could be hell, except people don’t leave hell whereas they do leave Perryville. And often return.

I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe Perryville Prison is haunted by the women themselves. The ghosts of the past surround their heads like teased hair, and I see reflections of loved ones in the edges of their eyes.

Dear friend Sue Ellen Allen harassed me (in a good way) for a year before I finally agreed to volunteer at Perryville. Sue Ellen, an ex-con herself, started a book club during her lengthy tenure at Perryville, and what better place for a writer like me than a book club?

Why the initial hesitation? Was it because my father was once a parole officer? No, although he wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of his daughter working with ex-cons. Was it because I don’t like to volunteer? No. The main reason I didn’t want to volunteer at Perryville Prison was because I was scared.

I had visions of Con Air. I just knew I would end up running from some Steve Buscemi freak show. Or maybe end up murdered. Or kidnapped. Something. Because to an outsider, that’s what prison is—a dark, scary place filled with hardened criminals who know how to turn a toothbrush into a lethal weapon. Was I wrong? Of course.

(Read more by ordering your copy today: Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back.)

When I write romance, I tend to fall in love with the male lead. “A Good Match” is no exception, but I had no idea how hard my first readers were going to fall for Lord George Carleton.

I’ll admit there was real-life inspiration. When Benedict Cumberbatch showed up in the media months ago with a slick, new super-short haircut, I fell out of my office chair. George was born (and, yeah, I even stole one of Benny’s four names, Carleton, for my character).

Now that I’ve admitted to the shallow inspiration for this story, I can attest that it’s so much more than some crappy fan fiction. Our heroine, Miss Alice Abbott, is a writer and feminist long before her time, and she takes shit from nobody–not even George, no matter how much she likes the look of him.

Alice fears the manacles of marriage and with good reason. So will Lord Carleton woo her, or will she send him back to London empty-handed?

I’ve given you a tease below, but for the whole story, you’ll have to pay up over at Romance Magazine. Trust me, you’ll want to see how this one turns out. (And, for the record, this is possibly the first PG-rated story I’ve ever written. Cheers!)

Teaser scene from “A Good Match”

By Sara Dobie Bauer

(Published by Romance Magazine.)

Amidst the crowds of well-dressed, rich young women and their hopeful mothers and fathers, Tilly Fox found Alice with speed. If Alice had a friend, it would be Tilly, although their relationship had changed greatly since Tilly’s marriage to the older, wiser Lord Deacon Fox.

Tilly grabbed onto Alice. “I’m so happy you’re here. Deacon won’t stop parading me around like a show horse.”

They linked arms and moved further into the party.

“My husband said he saw you out riding today by yourself. I can’t believe Gertrude allows such a thing. As your guardian, she should know better.”

“Oh, Tilly, Gertrude has much bigger things to worry about than her niece being stolen by a highwayman. Like her cross stitch, for instance.”

“She is too soft with you.”

“Since becoming a wife, you fret too much,” Alice said.

“That’s all I do: fret about the dinner setting, the window treatments, the servants … Deacon trying to sneak into my room at night, the ghastly man.”

Alice shushed her friend but laughed despite herself.

“Speaking of men, no sight of Lord Carleton as of yet. All these women here waiting, and I hardly believe he exists.”

“Perhaps he doesn’t,” Alice said. “Then, the young women of Duxbury can all go home and stop smiling and cooing like pigeons.”

“Oh, Alice, you have such a distaste for these things. Just wait: one day, you’ll meet some man, and you’ll ride into the sunset with him on the back of his horse.”

“I can ride my own horse, thank you.” Alice kept her hand tightly around her clutch.

the_duchess_23926“You know Deacon can hardly ride a horse anymore, what with his grand bottom. I swear it grows by the day.” Tilly laughed, but Alice knew she made no joke.

Across the ballroom, Gertrude spoke to the Dawson’s—the hosts—a very attractive pair who managed to stay slim and youthful despite the lazy lifestyle of the upper crust: one of rich food, servants, and social events. Alice recognized many of the other young women of Duxbury, too, dressed to impress. The whole room seemed on edge. Eyes flitted back and forth. Women whispered behind handheld, feathered fans, all because some spoiled London lord sought a wife.

“Lord Carleton is supposedly an accomplished horseman,” Tilly continued. “I understand local girls have been practicing their skills all week.”

“Good for them.” Alice shook loose of her friend’s grip. “Would you excuse me? I’ll be but a moment.”

“Alice …”

“Just some air, Tilly. I am overwhelmed by perfume and arrogance.” She winked and made her way slowly, calmly through the crowd.

Alice knew the Dawson house well, having spent not only parties but also childhood weekends wandering the halls with the now all-married Dawson girls. She knew how to sneak past servants and up a back set of darkened steps that led to the library of the great Lord Dawson himself.

She let herself in and there, as always, on the edge of his desk, she found Dawson’s pile of letters, prepared for the post, to be taken into the city the following morn. Alice reached into her clutch and pulled out a thick letter of her own, addressed to the London Times. She was careful to shove her own envelope between so many others to escape notice. Then, she quickly left the room.

Scattered candles dimly lit the hallway outside the library. A quadrille played below. She hurried to return to the ball, although no one would miss her in such a crowd, except perhaps Gertrude. However, in her haste to turn the corner, she did not notice a man hopping on one foot until she ran into him and almost knocked him over.

She made a small shocked noise.

He was obviously in the midst of getting dressed—or perhaps, redressed? His black suit jacket was on his shoulders, but the top buttons of his white shirt were undone. His tie was loose, as was his vest. He had on one muddy shoe and hopped to get out of the other, leaving a dirty trail behind.

When he felt her, heard her, he paused and stood straight.

His grand height and the unconventional length of his light brown hair surprised Alice. He wore his coif short, scandalously so. She’d never seen a man with such short hair before, and, as it was, so messy. And was that a burr above his ear?

He smiled at her, which was when she noticed his face was covered in dirt.

Alice put her hand to her mouth and laughed at the ridiculous sight of a grown man so closely resembling a naughty little boy.

“Excuse me,” he said and disappeared down the hall with one shoe in-hand … but not before she saw another quick flash of white teeth.

***

“Where have you been?” Gertrude grabbed her arm as soon as Alice reappeared downstairs. “At least your cheeks look rosy.”

Alice wondered why.

“His Lordship will be making his appearance any moment. You must be prepared.”

Gertrude could not have been more right, for as soon as they arrived in the center of the ballroom, voices hushed. Somewhere, near the grand staircase, Lord Carleton must have emerged.

Tilly stood on Alice’s other side. “Can you see him?”

Although Alice was taller than Tilly, she still couldn’t see over the crowd. “No. Apparently, he is not a giant.” Before Tilly could respond, Gertrude dragged Alice forward. Her auntie was nothing if not ambitious.

Alice knew the order of things: it was imperative they find the receiving line. Gertrude must have assumed the line was on the other side of the stairs, because she kept moving, moving, fast as her little legs would take her, until she brushed against Lord Dawson and suddenly stopped.

Alice’s shoes came to a swift skid on the marble floor, and she found herself staring up into the mischievous, translucent blue eyes of the disheveled man from upstairs. He was not disheveled any longer. His suit, tie, and vest were in perfect condition, and even his too-short hair was more organized and minus the burr.

black and white“Oh. Lady Essex.” Lord Dawson cleared his throat and ran two fingers across his dark moustache. Alice recognized the irritation in his tone, but she was preoccupied, studying the slim, young man before her. “Lady Gertrude Essex, I present to you Lord George Carleton.”

Gertrude grasped tight to the opportunity. “Lord Carleton, may I introduce my niece, Miss Alice Abbott.”

For Alice, the ballroom went silent when their eyes met. She made the immediate decision: she much preferred the man dirty and half-dressed. At the memory of their upstairs meeting, she bit the insides of her cheeks to keep from laughing. For his part, Lord Carleton appeared to be attempting the same, although his was a losing battle.

He took a step forward. “Miss Abbott.” His voice was deeper than the Thames.

Out of obligation, she raised her white-gloved hand, which he took and kissed. “Lord Carleton.”

Traditionally, the guest of honor moved swiftly down the line and met everyone in quick succession before round after round of dance and drink. Seemingly, the young lord decided to break with tradition, as he stood there for several moments, studying her. Alice felt her cheeks go warm.

“Are you enjoying yourself this evening, Miss Abbott?” He folded his hands behind his back.

“Surely not as much as you, Lord Carleton.” She bowed her head and looked back up at him.

The amusement never left his face, even as he glanced at her garish necklace. “I see you are a woman of luxurious tastes.”

“Is that a clever way of enquiring as to the status of my dowry, my Lord?”

Gertrude literally croaked like a frog.

Lord Carleton paused and then smiled a huge, joyous grin that made Alice’s breath catch in her chest. The little grin upstairs had been lovely, but this … She felt as if all the blood in her body rushed to her head.

He continued to smile. “A shrewd intellect is worth much more than a dowry, Miss Abbott.”

“Women are not supposed to have intellect, Lord Carleton. We are supposed to have sewing skills.”

Shudders of conversation erupted around them, but the young lord seemed distracted by her words. His light brows furrowed, and he looked at Alice as if he knew her, quite intimately, which made her heart do strange flips and turns she’d never felt before.

He was then ushered away.

Later, after much forced dancing and conversation with other traveling men from London, Alice was back in the carriage where Gertrude shouted and screamed and finally cried with the fear that her niece would ultimately die poor and unmarried.

Alone in her room that night, after the servants dutifully removed the layers of satin and lace—and unbound her breasts from the cruel corset—Alice sat on the floor near the fire and caressed her wrist. Her skin was warm to the touch, she knew, not because of the fire but because of Lord Carleton. He made her insides flutter in a way her intellect never allowed her to entertain. She was quite relieved she would never see him again, although she admitted: she was curious as to why he’d been covered in dirt.

***

When the letter arrived the next morning, Essex House went into uproar. Lord George Carleton requested a private meeting with Lady Gertrude Essex and her niece, Alice Abbott. He would be there that very afternoon.

Alice held tight to the bedpost; meanwhile, her aunt tugged and groaned as she pulled her corset strings.

“Why on Earth does he want to come … see … me?” Alice grunted as Gertrude continued to tug.

“He’s obviously taken with you.”

“I won’t allow it.”

Gertrude pulled even harder. “What?”

“I won’t allow it. Nothing of the sort. I will be particularly horrible when he arrives to get rid of that horrible man.”

Gertrude stopped tugging, which made Alice close her eyes.

“He didn’t seem very horrible,” her aunt said tauntingly.

Alice spun around. Like a child, she stomped her foot, because there was nothing horrible about Lord George Carleton. In the space of a moment, in fact, Alice thought of several things distinctly not horrible about the man, like his eyes, his smile, the way he’d made her laugh by hopping around on one muddy foot …

“Granted,” Gertrude said, “the young man wears his hair much too short. He smiles too easily for a gentleman. He may seem a bit unconventional, but he is coming here to see you, and you will be on your best behavior.”

Alice sighed.

***

(There you go! Just a tease! Read the rest in Romance Magazine.)

4512507780_3e194bdab4_b
I won’t call it a mental illness, but if I was to name how I’ve felt for the past year, I guess you could call it “Desert Fever.” As of today, Jake and I have lived in Arizona for a little over five years. Amazing friends have been made; amazing things have happened (including our wedding). I owe my fantastic career to Phoenix. I would almost call her My Muse. Still, something has been missing …

In October, it’s still 90 degrees outside. Trees don’t change color. The sky isn’t the color of a dirty puddle, and the air doesn’t smell live clove. It is distinctly un-horror-movie-like at Halloween time in Phoenix.

In December, the sun refuses to go away. There are blue skies everyday. Christmas feels fake and forced, because everyone knows, Christmas is supposed to be cold and white. You’re supposed to want hot chocolate, not iced coffee.

In April, it doesn’t rain. The grass doesn’t grow green, and flowers don’t bloom. Instead, everything prepares to die, because summer is coming, and summer carries with it the oppressive sensation of being burnt alive.

My Desert Fever involved more than weather, though; it has been about family. My blood relatives are, for the most part, on the east coast, as are all of my oldest friends. Sadly, two of our biggest family occasions since I’ve lived out here have been funerals, so basically, I’ve been paying Southwest to let me cry a lot.

Jake was the one who first suggested we move east. (He was probably sick of me watching all my horror movies, obsessively, because they always take place in the Midwest around Halloween, and I longed, longed to be someplace that looked like the places in my scary movies.) Deep inside me, there has been a longing for small town life again. Lack of rush hour traffic. Backyards not brimmed by concrete walls. Not having to travel 50 minutes to meet a friend for lunch.

This is not to say I dislike Phoenix. I’ve fallen in love with her over the years. I love her downtown, her Day of the Dead, her restaurants, and the smell of creosote after a monsoon. I’ve enjoyed getting to use the word “haboob” and eating authentic Mexican food surrounded by artful graffiti in the shape of skulls (my favorite).

Then, while on a “vision quest” road trip three weeks ago, Jake got the job offer of his dreams at a farm outside of Chardon, Ohio, near Cleveland. He called me while I was on my way to my college reunion in Athens, over the moon. Just like that, it was official: we were heading back to my home state.

We’re moving in two weeks. Have I had moments of terrific panic? Yes. Been a bit weepy lately? Of course. But not because I’m leaving Phoenix; it’s because, again, just like when we left Charleston, I’m leaving friends. I know it doesn’t do to stretch things out. It’s okay that we’re leaving in two weeks, but it is odd when you have a beer with someone you care about and realize this will be the last beer … possibly for a very long time.

I will miss things about living here. I will miss, most of all, my friends. I will miss being an active volunteer for Gina’s Team (even though I hope to continue my prison book clubs elsewhere). I will miss the food, the photo shoot fun, and the well-hidden dive bars.

But for the first time since I left Ohio ages ago, I will have a proper Halloween this year, complete with falling leaves and clove-scented rainstorms. I will have snow and the possibility of a white Christmas. I will have April showers and a green backyard filled with trees. Speaking of, maybe I’ll leap into an autumn leaf pile. Maybe I’ll try to teach my dogs how to make snow angels and buy them little sweaters. And my parents and auntie will be a two-hour drive away, as will friends I’ve kept since first grade.

There will be going away parties the weekend of the 14th: one Friday and one Saturday. I am available for impromptu happy hours and hugs. I will not leave this city without letting people know I love them and value them and will never forget them. But it’s time to go home. Home.

Photo by Ray Thomas.

Photo by Ray Thomas.

(Article by Jeannette Cruz, featured in the West Valley View.)

Most people don’t spend time discussing literature with inmates, but Sara Dobie Bauer isn’t most people. The Goodyear author established a book club three years ago at Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville in Goodyear.

Dobie Bauer, who is a board member for the nonprofit Gina’s Team, which works to improve the lives of inmates and ex-convicts in the Valley, said she was inspired to write an essay about her experience at the prison after realizing the importance of hope.

Her essay “Hope in Orange” will be featured in the upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering and Giving Back.

“I wrote an essay about what it’s like going to a prison, spending time at a prison and realizing that no matter how much I think I have to offer, the women behind bars have so much more to offer me,” Dobie Bauer said. “Together, we lift each other up. Together, we bring each other hope. Together, we laugh, together we cry — all through the catalyst of books.”

With shows such as Orange is the New Black, many people think all inmates are “scary and tough,” Dobie Bauer said.

“Once you sit down, you realize most of them are the same age as you and they just made one mistake, or maybe life dealt them a bad hand and they had a really bad upbringing, and the only way they could get out was through crime,” she said.

She considers herself an ideal candidate to go into the prison, because she suffers from mental illness, Dobie Bauer said.

“I have depression. I have an anxiety disorder. I have post-traumatic stress. So, some days, even though I am not behind bars, I still feel trapped by fear and by sadness,” she said. “Emotions can be my prison, whereas these women have emotional prisons and literal prisons. But, despite the prisons we inflict on ourselves and that we suffer through, there is hope.”

She believes books have an amazing power to heal, and when selecting books for her book club, she looks for those that have had an emotional impact on her life, Dobie Bauer said.

“These women are really into it. They are so smart and so good at taking out the important things in these books, talking about it and really relate to everything,” she said.

Earlier this year, the book club read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and explored a plot surrounded by murder, a poisonous marriage and dark elements.

“I didn’t think it was that great when I read it, but I was curious about what the women would think, and it was the most fiery conversation we’ve ever had because the opinions were so divided on who was more of a psychopath — the husband or the wife,” Dobie Bauer said. “I didn’t even have to speak the entire time.”

(Read the rest at West Valley View. Pre-order your copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering and Giving Back HERE.)

Photo by Paul Jacob.

Photo by Paul Jacob.

I feel conflicted.

Due to the whole Caitlyn Jenner/ESPY and gay marriage in the USA thing last week, my dad wrote a lamenting post on Facebook about “the state of things” for Christians in America and got equally applauded and attacked.

The big surprise for me was that some of his attackers were my childhood friends. I’m not surprised they disagree with my dad; I’m surprised they were surprised by his post. I mean, my dad is the most conservative Christian I know. The fact that he considers gay marriage, nationwide, to be a bad thing should go without saying.

His post inspired a conversation between Jake and me. The conversation we had was a bit worrying, because we both realized it feels as though Christians can’t disagree with gay marriage without being vilified, which means people are being vilified for having an opinion, and we all have a right to our opinions … even if that opinion isn’t the cool, new trend on Twitter.

I know how I identify. I am:
Female
Christian
Pro-choice
Pro-gay marriage
An erotica author
A prison rights advocate
The proud owner of a .38 special named Annie Oakley

I’ve long since realized I’m not a republican or a democrat. I’m not liberal or conservative. I’m a Benedict Cumberbatch-loving geeky writer with a husband and two dogs. I dance in rainstorms and make people laugh with my creative usage of the f-word.

My most famous story to date is “Don’t Ball the Boss,” nominated for the much-coveted 2015 Pushcart Prize. It was about a highly inappropriate and hilarious gay man and his sexual fixation with his straight male boss, which got me (like my father) equally applauded and attacked. And I was writing fiction!

I know where I stand, philosophically and creatively, but I’m wary about discussing it. I’m getting a little shaky about being honest and having a voice—and what the hell is a writer without a voice? For instance, I wrote an article about Lana Del Rey fans months ago and was bludgeoned to death by cries of “slut shaming!” and “women’s rights!” and “you’re just old and bitter!”

Damn. I was just making a point about idol worship.

Despite negative feedback, I can’t shut up. I can’t keep my politically incorrect mouth restrained. I have an opinion, and I’m allowed to have my opinion. So is everyone else, even if I think it’s wrong. It’s an opinion. Without opinions, we’d live in a world of peace and harmony and … boredom.

I realize that someday soon, one of my labels—the Christian one—will become a minority. In fact, someday, I might be locked up because I pray every day and think God is a pretty cool dude. Like Daniel with the lions, I’ll be added to the menu, but not yet.

For now, I still have a voice. So with that voice, I’ll say, congrats on gay marriage, but let’s not slander people who are against it. Remember: it’s not Christian versus gay; it’s about all of us listening to and respecting each other.

A final word from the Man upstairs: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. … Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation.”

MSGI-charleston-savannah-multisport-12

Oh, city of raw oysters and lamplight,
Of uneven, brick sidewalks and Rainbow Row.
Dear haven of seafood cuisine and champagne,
Quiet jazz and Southern charm.

You embraced me—our two-year affair—
Welcomed a Yankee and called yourself “Home.”
In your arms, I felt love:
With you, with men, with myself.

When lonely, I walked the Battery.
When happy, I wandered East Bay.
When too hot, I hid in your restaurants.
When it snowed, I walked the Market in awe.

You were a place of love and loss—
But also of joy and never-ending beauty,
Of climbing vines and green gardens,
The smell of the sea and flooding streets.

I sang down your alleys.
I danced on your roofs.
I dawdled on street corners.
Cigarette smoke and a stolen kiss.

I left you too soon …
No longer did your sweaty summer arms surround me.
No longer did I hear the sound of the sea.

But even now, I hear you:
The tick of a quiet drum beat.
The clink of wine glasses.
The slide of an oyster, shucked.

From across the country, I cry for you, my beloved city.
I mourn the loss of peaceful walks, quiet talks.
Do dark alleys seem darker?
The music more subdued?

Don’t lose yourself, dear girl.
You are protected; you are loved.
The only red on your streets should be a spilled Bloody Mary.
The only scream … one of joy.

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